The Catholic religion forbade the eating of meat during lent and that is why the name of the occasion derives from “carnem levare”, which is Latin for abolish meat. Over time the significance took a non religious meaning, it became the people’s day, the day of freedom when all material things were permitted.
This custom quickly spread through out the Catholic countries. We are all aware of the famous Venice Carnival, Mardi Gras celebrations in France and even the most famous of all Carnivals in Brasil.
Despite the festive spirit of Andalucian people, Carnival celebations suffered when General Franco abolished it during the Civil War, even after the war there was much opposition to it. Probably because of its underlying significance was the freedom of the people and opposition to abstentions and prohibitions.
Carnival did survive in Cádiz and some of its neighbouring towns, all the Spanish in general associate “Carnaval” with it. Indeed it is the liveliest and most dazzling in Spain. It is famous for its amusing figurines and satirical song groups, which are even televised. El Puerto de Santa María, Chiclana de la Frontera, Medina-Sidonia, Rota, San Fernando and Algeciras, all in the province of and near Cádiz are also well known for their lavish Carnaval celebrations.
Nowadays most Andalucian towns have started re-adopting the Carnaval, the schools themselves organise and stage fancy dress parades for the children. In the evening, the streets fill with children and adults in fancy dress, there is music, song, dance and a “Carnival Queen” contest as well as a contest for the most original fancy dress. Depending on the town, there may even be a Fire Works display to signify the end of the festivity, but it normally continues well past that.
The Carnaval is on or about Shrove Tuesday, the dates given below are the official Cadiz dates, you would need to find out on what day your town or Village will celebrate (or start to celebrate) the occasion.